biking in front of lyman

By Edward Weinman

It’s a rite of passage. Come the start of fall, 18-year-old college students load the car with all the stuff that they can possibly squeeze into a dorm room and then surf their smartphone as their parents drive them hundreds of miles to campuses all across the U.S.

First-year student Colin McCarthy ’17 bucked this trend, hopped on his Novara Divano 6061 bicycle, and pedaled 180 miles from Spokane, Wash., to Walla Walla.

Colin McCarthy '17

“I had to get my bike to school somehow. My dad said he wouldn’t drive it down. He suggested I ride, so I said, ‘Sure. I’d love to.’”

It took McCarthy two days to ride to Walla Walla, but he explains the trek was “no big deal,” because he grew up in an “environment where we do 100 mile rides for fun.”

In fact, McCarthy, who plans to major in biomathematics, once rode across the country, from Spokane to N.H., spending 33 days cycling. He rides for the exercise, but also because it’s the perfect respite from his studies.

“Academically, Whitman’s challenging. I’m a smart kid, but I have to work hard,” he said, noting that his first week of school was difficult. “I cycle for breaks from my studies. I use the bike in the morning so I can get more focused.”

Prior to the start of school, McCarthy took part in Whitman’s Scramble program, an outdoor adventure geared towards new students who have the opportunity to meet fellow first years and older students who lead the week-long trips into the Pacific Northwest. So before classes started, he already had friends with whom he could ride.

“I went on a hiking trip in Olympic National Forest. It was wonderful. And I still hang out with the people from my Scramble. We go on rides together.”

McCarthy is like most of his 414 fellow first-year students. He chose Whitman because of its reputation for academic excellence. However, he knew he wanted to go to Whitman after a trip to the campus, which he took as a sophomore in high school.

“I saw the campus two years ago. When I was a senior in high school, I was visiting other colleges and it became obvious to me that Whitman was where I wanted to go. It has such a strong community feeling.

“The upperclassmen don’t treat you like a freshman. They are actually willing to talk to us.”